Happy New Year and a photo update.

A massive thank-you and best wishes for the new year to family, friends and customers, who have continued to support us through 2013!

It has been a while since my last post, not due to laziness I promise! The last part of this year has been as hectic as ever and unfortunately, blog entries have suffered. Now with renewed enthusiasm and recharged batteries, 2014 will be blogged to death ūüôā

Here are some update photos and highlights for the latter part of 2013:

The sunsets in Darwin were amazing! Part of the travelling road show of Sharon McDonough, Rohan Bryan and myself presenting on Sustainability in schools at an ACASA conference.

The sunsets in Darwin were amazing! Part of the travelling road show of Sharon McDonough, Rohan Bryan and myself presenting on Sustainability in schools at an ACASA conference.

Yep, the termite mounds were epic!

Yep, the termite mounds were epic!

Nothing better than swimming at a waterfall:-)

Nothing better than swimming at a waterfall:-)

AHHHHHH!

The photo says it all!

The photo says it all!

Back into home brewing:-)

Back into home brewing:-)

Documenting the film crew documenting us.

Documenting the film crew documenting us.

My trusty little helper, helping with the electric fencing.

My trusty little helper, helping with the electric fencing.

After a week in torrential rain and gale force winds with 28 15 year olds, I went a little crazy...

After a week in torrential rain and gale force winds with 28 15 year olds, I went a little crazy…

Finally, we got Little-little one onto the farm to service the girls. He is a little out of condition - to much grass, too little exercise - but hopefully with a strict diet, he can back into shape and do his thing.

Finally, we got Little-little one onto the farm to service the girls. He is a little out of condition – to much grass, too little exercise – but hopefully with a strict diet, he can back into shape and do his thing.

Yep, the end of a school year and we all go crazy, especially when building wood ovens.

Yep, the end of a school year and we all go crazy, especially when building wood ovens.

These aquaponic tomatoes are going great guns in the greenhouse!

These aquaponic tomatoes are going great guns in the greenhouse!

Plenty of feed for the livestock this winter! No need to buy in hay this time, thanks to our friendly neighbours.

Plenty of feed for the livestock this winter! No need to buy in hay this time, thanks to our friendly neighbours.

Introducing Ari Quach, my new nephew! Congratulations Nam-Do, Liana and Sian :-)

Introducing Ari Quach, my new nephew! Congratulations Nam-Do, Liana and Sian ūüôā

New cousin!

Home grown dinner! Highland Heritage lamb, garlic, rosemary, thyme and oregano! 4 hour slow roast. Divine!

Home grown dinner! Highland Heritage lamb, garlic, rosemary, thyme and oregano! 4 hour slow roast. Divine!

With our kitchen being commercialised, we now bake sourdough breads for our customers as well as part of our suspended produce and bread program.

With our kitchen being commercialised, we now bake sourdough breads for our customers as well as part of our suspended produce and bread program.

Nothing better than seeing all the family together.

Nothing better than seeing all the family together.

Ava-Li loves her Gramps:-)

Ava-Li loves her Gramps:-)

Dangling Christmas balls look awesome over amazing food being consumed by an amazing family. After giving cancer a good kick up the bum, it is great to see Nan Nan so healthy and with so much energy:-)

Dangling Christmas balls look awesome over amazing food being consumed by an amazing family. After giving cancer a good kick up the bum, it is great to see Nan Nan so healthy and with so much energy:-)

Gramps has much more patience than I! The boys loved working with Gramps to put together their Christmas pressie!

Gramps has much more patience than I! The boys loved working with Gramps to put together their Christmas pressie!

Yep, the tilte is not a typo! Frost damage last weekend... Unreal, middle of summer and we got frost. Tomatoes, zucchinis, beans, corn, cucumber.... all the frost tender plants, got frost bite...

Yep, the tilte is not a typo! Frost damage last weekend… Unreal, middle of summer and we got frost. Tomatoes, zucchinis, beans, corn, cucumber…. all the frost tender plants, got frost bite…

As part of our business and farm ethos, we want to give as much as we can to those in need. We have extended this opportunity to our customers and for every suspended dollar they give, we match it. It works similar to suspended coffee, but with produce and bread instead. Go to http://www.suspendedcoffeemelbourne.com.au/ for more info on suspended coffee.

As part of our business and farm ethos, we want to give as much as we can to those in need. We have extended this opportunity to our customers and for every suspended dollar they give, we match it. It works similar to suspended coffee, but with produce and bread instead. Go to http://www.suspendedcoffeemelbourne.com.au/ for more info on suspended coffee.

So now in 2014, I have begun a new role at my work looking at whole school sustainability, in buildings, grounds and curriculum, which will bring with it many new challenges. It will mean a reshuffle of the routines of managing the farm, the business and life in general, but hopefully will allow for a continued focus of sustainable practices across the board.

Thanks again to all who have supported us in our endeavors and journey in life. Bring on 2014!

Compost and Daily Rotations

Well after 18 days, my compost is ready to spread. It could probably do with another 2-3 days, but how it is is fine for me to use, plenty of microbes to inoculate the soil.

Also now moving our Highland cows everyday to new pasture. With the spring growth kicking in, the pasture is looking amazingly green and lush. The cows will continue to be rotated right through the season and although we are yet to pasture chickens following the cows (project for this spring/summer), the egrets and ibises are doing a great job, flying through and turning  spreading and scraping the cow manure in search for grubs, larvae and worms.

Back to business.

Spring has truly sprung! The weather has been up and down like a yo-yo, with horribly wet, windy and cold weather last week and warm and sun forecast for this week! The vegies are really kicking off with the extra daylight hours and we are finally back into the swing of things. All the productive gardens, orchard, berries and herbs have had a good spray of¬†beneficial¬†microbes, seasol, fish emulsion and liquid compost and this should really give them a boost for the coming growing season. I plan on¬†continuing¬†the spraying regime once a fortnight and hopefully everything will thrive and set in for the summer. Our Highland cows will soon be back to their once daily rotation, with maybe another week or two in their current paddock. The sheep are being rotated each fortnight at this stage and are now not able to keep up with the quick growth of the spring flush. The lambs are fattening up quickly and “Gammy” our house sheep, is doing well.

In our market garden extension, the potatoes in the no dig beds are sprouting well and it will be interesting to see what kind of harvest we get from them this year. In between each bed I plan to lay thick layers of newspaper and large quantities of compost and manure and thick layer of straw mulch on top of that. The plan is to plant into the straw in a good handful of quality compost. The compost should then inoculate the straw and manure, allowing the plants to take-up all the nutrients they need. Once again we will see how well this method works compared to the more conventional way of growing. Also I will be trialling a green manure crop, sown between potato beds, allowed to grow until just flowering and then slashed and used as a chop and drop mulch and growing bed. The seedlings will grow into the mulch in a good handful of compost.

Speaking of compost, at my PDC course, we learnt about making good quality microbial compost based on a 30:1 carbon to nitrogen ration. Compost should be ready in 18 days. So far I am up to day 11 and it is really looking good! Maybe a little too hot, as I have some white powder growing, but easily rectified. By the end of the week, I should have beautiful rich, microbial compost ready to spread and inoculate the soil! Below is a video after the 4th day.

In the current market garden, I have been busily preparing the beds for our coming vegie crops. I have forked each bed to break up the clay panning of the rotary hoe and the difference this has made to the drainage has been amazing. We got 20mm of rain over the past couple of days before today and where I had not forked, water was pooling, but where I had forked, the water had drained away nicely. It was still a little wet to work too much, but I was able to shape another couple of beds today and seeded them with turnips and sweedes. Each bed is about 8 meters long by about 900mm wide. On the high side of the bed, I have dug a small trench, forked it to aerate it, lay down the weeds I have pulled up and then a thick layer of straw mulch on top of that. The worms will go crazy for the decomposing weeds and the trench will act as a mini swale, storing and slowly draining water through the growing bed.

Back to weekly sales now with weekly deliveries. The sun has been amazing, working listen to the children play just 5 meters away and then having them all join me to weed the beds and hunt for worms, or help me seed the trays has been gold. Ahhhh life is good on the farm:-)

New addition and greenhouse update

Work starts back up again tomorrow and the jobs I had down to complete are nowhere near finished. Oh well, Rome wasn’t built in a day… Progress on the greenhouse timber frame has been slow, however, one bent is finished, ridge pole for the roof rough cut and one tenon done and second bent well under way. Tano-Li, my little padawan has been ever floating around the workshop area finding jobs to do. He came in the other day, said he wanted to help, grabbed the broom and started sweeping up! I then gave him a few little jobs to help with and we both had a great time ūüôā Kobe-Li then got in on the action and so I stopped what I was doing (ran out of little jobs) cut up a few off cuts and pre drilled these for the boys:

These were cut out of off-cuts and pre-drilled for the boys to put together.

They had a great time putting them together, using a cordless drill, and sanding down the edges!

Tano-Li has also helped with the framing:

Tano-Li making sure the shaping was square and true.

Bit blurry sorry – bad light. This is the first bent finished. The rafters are cut and shaped ready to fit once the whole thing goes up.

I decided to bolt the frame together rather than timber pegs, just for that added bit of security and due to time constraints. Once this whole thing is up it is going to look awesome!

We have also¬†received¬†delivery of a belted galloway 6mth old steer to grow out. Won’t be for another 18 months before we process him, but I am sure it will be well worth the wait ūüėČ

He is fitting in well with the others after a tentative day.

Lastly, I caught sight of a massive – read freaken huge – fox down by the dam the other morning (9am), so it was time to sure up the chicken pen with hot wire. The chicken pen now looks like Fort Knox, hot wire above, between and 10cm off the ground to stop digging – and yes the hot wire does work….

Hot wired chook pen., will definitely keep Mr Fox away!

Prep for Potatoes

Part of the new potato patch where the cows had been feeding.

Winter has really set in here at the farm. Today it has been raining non-stop and looking on the radar, there is plenty more to come. We were toying with having a working bee to weed and prep the market garden for the coming season, however are really glad that I checked the weather bureau’s forecast before putting out the call.

We are halfway through the year now, being the 1st of July, and the rain tally is pretty much spot on the halfway mark of the average for our area with 336.5mm. Over the past few weeks, the rain has pretty much been unrelenting, and today was fold moving day. They have been grazing up close to the house block, in an area I will be planting out the potatoes this coming season. They are being feed hay as there has not been enough growth in the paddocks to sustain them to a healthy level. I could leave them and they would be fine until the spring growth, however, prefer they are looked after well and fed hay to keep them nice and healthy.

The area they have been eating has had a fair amount of cow ones and twos spread out as they are eating and the remaining hay that has been trampled, will be used with our compost, chicken manure and the neighbors endless supply of horse manure, to create an amazing, organic, no-dig style potato patch. Once the potatoes have been harvested, we should then have an area still rich in nutrients for other crops to be planted. Yes the cows will have compacted the soil somewhat, however, I will use the sub-soiler (mean looking Fergie ripper) to aerate and break the soil up before planting.

So today I moved the fold, and got completely soaked in the pouring rain for my effort…

At least the cows are happy and healthy.

The girls happily eating their hay. Fertilising and spreading their goodness.

Big Week

A very busy week coming up! With deliveries coming out of our ears, we were starting to worry that we would not have enough stock to fill all of our orders, but after a quick walk around the market garden, things are looking ok in terms of meeting supply for this week. That being said, if have many more weeks like this one, we will start to really struggle as winter has well and truely hit us here in our patch of paradise.

I woke up this morning and outside the thermometer was reading -2deg Celsius! Now that is cold! That being said, our market garden still manages to pump out the produce, but things have¬†definitely¬†started to slow down. My 3rd batch of corn, although ripening, is on its last legs. My 4th batch, well that will be a treat for the cows… All the tomatoes have been pulled up and so have our different beans. Peas are slowly going in as are the broad beans to make use of the trellis I put up and help nitrogen fix the soil. Still another 3-400 garlic bulbs to go in to reach my aim of 1000+ (may go for 2000 as we have enough plus some to spare). More carrots, lettuce, bok choy and brassicas as well as beetroot and turnips have gone in and this coming week I will hopefully get more alliums in like onions, onions, onions, chives, leeks and spring onions transplanted and get the next batch of various seeds started in punnets. My makeshift greenhouse is still doing ok, but I really need to get started on the large seedling and aquaponics greenhouse to help keep temperatures stable at night, particularly with the temps getting so low so soon.

I also managed to get another batch of hot compost started last weekend, hopefully it will be ready in 4-5 weeks. The pile was steaming all weekend and this coming weekend I will give it a turn and get things cranking again. The animals that have all contributed to the pile have also been looked after, the cows cell grazing paddocks set again for the week, sheep and alpacas moved and chickens in the Taj and newly completed Raw Bale chook shed pampered as always (except for the last remaining 3 roosters who will be processed this weekend – well they at least have all the food they want, all the grass they can eat, fresh water, safe housing and shelter from the elements, so I guess the are temporarily pampered too).

Work work, also pretty busy, aquaponics being quoted, more planting and tree orders, more regenerative projects, 10 (out of 20) raised garden beds on their way ready for a school mini farm, retaining walls and indigenous nature walk planned and quoted, marking, lessons to be planned, student teacher to mentor and debrief daily, department to run and streamline (now that is a big job!) whole school curriculum to be audited and altered and behaviour modification in the way of sustainable practice and education to be slowly implemented.

Ahhh, another day of living the dream.

Did I mention that this weekend we have a 7 year old party to organise….

Organic Pest Control and Foster Mum

Over the past week or so, even in the crazily wet, windy and cold weather, an animal, that usually only appears in Spring proper, ie. during warmer weather, has appeared on our farm. This animal is an amazing creature, devouring pests like nothing else and also helps to pollinate our crops. What animal am I talking about? The humble and beautiful ladybug! The ladybug eats the hated aphid, scale insects and plant mites and helps the garden control its pests. In previous years we have had aphid problems in our strawberries and this year, in one section, is no exception. They are everywhere! The aphids and soft bodied insects that suck the sap out of new growing shoots, thus stunting their growth. They also affect the fruit, reducing their size and sometimes appearance. With the sighting of the ladybug (and I am sure there are tons more around the place), my concerns about the destructive aphid are somewhat alleviated!

Ella’s teats are looking much better. They are almost all completely healed up and her udder is no longer looking red or swollen. Unfortunately though it seems like she has dried herself off and House Rates is no longer able to feed from his mum. We started getting a little worried, but then we saw this:

Bianca has taken on the duties of feeding House Rates and has affectively fostered him. Ella still looks after her calf, but the feeding resposibilities have now been transferred to Bianca. We now need to make sure she recieves enough feed and nutrients to sustain feeding two calves. I must say this was a pretty special sight to behold.